PHOENIX, AZ: With customer experience increasingly defined by customer service, a new survey has found that three-quarters (76%) of American shoppers view customer service as a "true test" of how much a brand values them.

But that element of brand engagement is especially important for millennials, who say their expectations about customer service have increased over the past three years and, consequently, are becoming more "experience-loyal" than "brand-loyal".

Indeed, more than half (56%) of millennials say they have switched brands in the past year because of poor customer service, which means brands need to address their preferences quickly or risk losing their custom.

These are some of the key findings from a recent poll of 1,050 US adults, including an oversampled segment of those aged 18-34, on behalf of Aspect Software, a supplier of customer engagement solutions.

Millennials take centre stage

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With millennials not afraid to take their business elsewhere if left unsatisfied, the report advised brands to embrace integrated omnichannel support and self-service options, such as texting.

Helping consumers to help themselves is important, the report said, because 65% of all respondents, rising to 69% of millennials, say they "feel good" about a brand and themselves when they can solve a problem on their own. Also, a full 73% of all consumers want the ability to resolve product or service issues by themselves.

Joe Gagnon, svp of Aspect's Cloud Solutions, observed that the average consumer interacts with customer service 65 times a year, yet their experience does not reflect their digital preferences or desire to resolve issues on their own.

"This represents a tremendous missed opportunity for companies to build business and secure customer loyalty," he said.

"As millennials are more 'experience-loyal' than 'brand-loyal', consumer engagement is quickly becoming a far more influential factor in building positive brand perception," he added.

"It's imperative that businesses adapt their customer service strategies to deliver an interaction strategy that addresses millennial engagement preferences."

Data sourced from Aspect Software; additional content by Warc staff